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Transmission of Staphylococcus aureus via air may play an important role in healthcare settings. This study investigates the impact of barrier precautions on the spread of airborne S. aureus by volunteers with experimentally induced rhinovirus infection (ie, the common cold).
Prospective nonrandomized study.
Wake Forest University School of Medicine (Winston-Salem, NC).
A convenience sample of 10 individuals with nasal S. aureus carriage selected from 593 students screened for carriage.
Airborne S. aureus dispersal was studied in the 10 participants under the following clothing conditions: street clothes, surgical scrubs, surgical scrubs and a gown, and the latter plus a face mask. After a 4-day baseline period, volunteers were exposed to a rhinovirus, and their clinical course was followed for 12 days. Daily swabs of nasal specimens, pharynx specimens, and skin specimens were obtained for quantitative culture, and cold symptoms were documented. Data were analyzed by random-effects negative binomial models.
All participants developed a common cold. Incidence rate ratios (IRRs) indicated that, compared with airborne levels of S. aureus during sessions in which street clothes were worn, airborne levels decreased by 75% when surgical scrubs were worn (P<.001), by 80% when scrubs and a surgical gown were worn (P<.001), and by 82% when scrubs, a gown, and a face mask were worn (P<.001). The addition of a mask to the surgical scrubs and gown did not reduce the airborne dispersal significantly (IRR, 0.92;P>.05). Male volunteers shed twice as much S. aureus as females (incidence rate ratio, 2.04; P = .013). The cold did not alter the efficacy of the barrier precautions.
Scrubs reduced the spread of airborne S. aureus, independent of the presence of a rhinovirus-induced cold. Airborne dispersal of S. aureus during sessions in which participants wore surgical scrubs was not significantly different from that during sessions in which gowns and gowns plus masks were also worn.
To investigate whether rhinovirus infection leads to increased airborne dispersal of coagulase-negative staphylococci (CoNS).
Prospective nonrandomized intervention trial.
Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Twelve nasal Staphylococcus aureus-CoNS carriers among 685 students screened for S. aureus nasal carriage.
Participants were studied for airborne dispersal of CoNS in a chamber under three conditions (street clothes, sterile gown with a mask, and sterile gown without a mask). After 2 days of pre-exposure measurements, volunteers were inoculated with a rhinovirus and observed for 14 days. Daily quantitative nasal and skin cultures for CoNS and nasal cultures for rhinovirus were performed. In addition, assessment of cold symptoms was performed daily, mucous samples were collected, and serum titers before and after rhinovirus inoculation were obtained. Sneezing, coughing, and talking events were recorded during chamber sessions.
All participants had at least one nasal wash positive for rhinovirus and 10 developed a symptomatic cold. Postexposure, there was a twofold increase in airborne CoNS (P = .0004), peaking at day 12. CoNS dispersal was reduced by wearing a gown (57% reduction, P < .0001), but not a mask (P = .7). Nasal and skin CoNS colonization increased after rhinovirus infection (P<.05).
We believe this is the first demonstration that a viral pathogen in the upper airways can increase airborne dispersal of CoNS in nasal S. aureus carriers. Gowns, gloves, and caps had a protective effect, whereas wearing a mask did not further reduce airborne spread.
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